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House Subcommittee Asks Archive for FOIA Reform Advice

Archive General Counsel Testifies that Congress Should Mandate Solutions;
Cites 17 Year Delays, Lost Requests, and Agency Obstruction of FOIA

For more information contact:
Meredith Fuchs - 202/994-7000

Statement of Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel, National Security Archive
Before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Hearing on: "The State of FOIA: Assessing Agency Efforts to Meet FOIA Requirements," February 14, 2007

Includes Attachment:
FOIA in the News: Headlines Made Possible by FOIA, 2003-Present

National Security Archive FOIA page

 

Washington DC, February 14, 2007 - National Security Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs today told the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that, "problems [with the Freedom of Information Act system] will not be solved unless Congress mandates solutions."

Ms. Fuchs recommended that Congress reform the FOIA to require better annual reporting and tracking of FOIA requests, citing examples of processing delays as long as 17 years and agency mismanagement or obstruction of requests causing delay. She also called on Congress to stop agencies from playing litigation games that cost requesters and taxpayers' money and waste judicial resources. She referenced examples of agencies that fail to take responsible legal positions until after a requester has filed a lawsuit and then suddenly reverse course when it becomes clear that a court will likely rule against the agency. She advocated revision of the FOIA's attorneys' fees provision as a solution. Ms. Fuchs explained that, "Despite many outstanding people administering FOIA programs throughout the government - and they deserve praise for their work - there are far too many FOIA offices that fail to live up to the expectations of the law and the needs of the taxpaying public."

Ms. Fuchs testified on a panel that included Clark Hoyt, former Washington Editor for Knight Ridder, who testified on behalf of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, and Carolyn Frederickson of the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, representatives of the General Accounting Office and the Department of Justice testified.

The Archive has been at the forefront of organizations using and assessing the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive has completed five government-wide audits of FOIA administration (supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation). Recommendations from the Archive's reports on those audits have been adopted in President Bush's Executive Order 13,392 ("Improving Agency Disclosure of Information"), included in FOIA legislation introduced in earlier Congresses by Senators Cornyn and Leahy, and Congressmen Smith and Waxman, and included as goals in many of the 91 agency FOIA Improvement Plans developed under the Executive Order.

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